Mental Health and Wellbeing of Young People Seminar

(9am, Sydney Town Hall)

Thank you, Ramesh [Dr Manocha, CEO Generation Next]. Good morning everyone, and welcome to Town Hall.

Like all of you here today, we at the City of Sydney are passionate about the well-being of our young people. We are determined to do all that we can to make sure that they feel included, that they are cared for and given the opportunities to grow and develop in the sort of safe and supportive environments that are - or should be - their birth right.

According to your own figures, almost nine per cent of young Australians aged between 16 and 24 have been assessed as having "high or very high" levels of psychological distress, and one in four has experienced some form of mental disorder in the preceding 12 months.

We need a whole-of-society approach that involves us all in this vital task. Many young people will have terrific opportunities but nearly all will be exposed - as you all know - to a daunting range of pressures and problems.

Some of our most visible activities centre on Youth Week, when the City runs a host of special events and activities ranging from skateboarding competitions to sports days, to an Aboriginal heritage tour and, this year, the introduction of smartphone technology to encourage people to explore the hidden treasures of Sydney Park.

Youth Week attracts thousands of young people and we also celebrate the contribution so many young people make to their community through the Betty Makin Youth Awards.

There are also six separate youth programs across the local government area, offering term-time and holiday programs ranging from sports to internet skills, arts, cooking, music and life skills.

And our Youth Team Leaders are on hand to help with problems associated with education, accommodation, or Centrelink access. They also offer referrals to specialist counselling.

There are also a series of projects across the City in which we partner with other bodies to provide very practical help.

These including Driving4Employment, run with the Salvation Army's Oasis Youth Support Network - offering young people help to get the driver's licence which in turn will help them in their search for a job.

The Glebe Youth Service, in conjunction with the NSW Government, offers the After-Dark program, with a drop-in centre, the pathways to education program, sport and classes to develop skills in IT, music and video production, as well as activities specifically tailored for girls and boys.

Lights Camera Action has so far opened jobs in film and television to over 150 Aboriginal kids while the Millers Point Employment Program involves 13 partners ranging from local groups, local schools and education providers, NSW Police, Housing NSW and private organisations like Lend Lease and Westpac to proactively work towards a better future for young people in the local community.

With Indent Music NSW, our Youth team also supports the Sydney Youth Music Project which attracts volunteers aged from 12 to 24 to organise live, all-ages drug and alcohol-free music events in our area.

These volunteers get the chance to develop skills and gain experience in event management, while also boosting the vitality of our live music scene.

Weave@Waterloo is a not-for-profit organisation which focuses on help for young people and women and families, with programs that focus on mental health, drug and alcohol issues, on young Aboriginal people at risk of homelessness or substance abuse and also provides counselling, an arts program, and help from people caught up in the juvenile justice who need accommodation and help with employment or study.

In 2012, with joint funding from the City and the Federal government, a one-unused amenities block was transformed into a stunning, sustainable and welcoming centre for Weave. It won the highest honour for public architecture in NSW that year - the Sir John Sulman Medal which has also been awarded to the Sydney Opera House.

I finish this morning by mentioning that award because it represents the seriousness of our commitment to young people in Sydney, and the seriousness of our conviction that they are worthy of the best that we all - in our different spheres - can do for them.

I wish you well for your meeting today.